The fresh, earthy scent of redwoods drifting through my car is usually enough to convince me to take a drive up to Ben Lomond, especially if the trip ends in a visit to Mountain Feed and Farm Supply.
But after visiting La Placa Family Bakery, I now have two more reasons to escape up the hill, and both of them come dusted in powdered sugar.
Depending on where you live in the county, it can be a bit of trek to get there, but in my opinion it’s absolutely worth it. Originally from Sicily, pastry chef Leonardo La Placa found his calling in pastry at just 12 years of age, and spent several decades working and teaching pastry in Europe before arriving in Ben Lomond and opening La Placa Family Bakery three years ago.
While the bakery also serves pizzas and calzones, the pastry counter—filled with an array of colorful cakes, traditional Italian cookies and a dozen flavors of hand-made gelato—is what immediately commands your attention upon entering.
My eye is caught by a tray of round, fist-sized Italian donuts—bombolini ($1.25 each). While I consider myself a fairly frequent visitor to our county’s various bakeries and pastry shops, I haven’t seen one of these filled pastries since I was in New York a few years ago, and I’m delighted.
A filled donut is easy to love, but a bombolone can reach transcendent heights if done well, as they are at La Placa. Feather-light on the outside and bursting with either sweetened, creamy ricotta or silky Nutella, it’s difficult to stop at just one. Of the two, I prefer the not-too-sweet ricotta, but as I discovered when I brought a box to my boyfriend’s Italian parents and watched them promptly devoured, it really is a matter of preference.
Another pastry that sets this bakery apart are the cannoli ($4 each). These hard-shelled, tubed-shaped pastries are filled to order—to prevent them from getting soggy—with the same delicious ricotta, and topped on either end with slivered almonds. They’re so festive that they’ve become my go-to dessert to bring to almost any celebration, equally fun at birthdays, holidays and dinner parties.
La Placa Family Bakery. 9280 Hwy. 9, Ben Lomond, 609-6552.